The election day sermon in colonial New England was an annual, formal address by a minister of the gospel to the newly assembled legislature of the colony. The tradition began in the Massachusetts Bay colony in 1634, and it continued, in Boston, for 250 years. In this volume, Professor Plumstead presents a collection of nine of the Massachusetts election sermons, chosen from among the surviving Massachusetts sermons which were printed between 1661 and 1775. They are not chosen as representative but, rather, as the best, judged on a basis of literary excellence and ideas and points of style relevant to later developments in American literature and history. There are changes in style and theme in the 105 years between the first and the last selection, and, in his brief introduction to each of the sermons, the editor discusses these changes and the sermon’s relationship to the tradition as a whole. In a general introduction, Professor Plumstead provides background information about the history and significance of the election sermons. As he makes clear, the election sermon tradition offers a vantage point for seeing both continuity and change in colonial intellectual history. The sermons in this collection will complement colonial studies by bringing the reader close to the spirit of the times. The title of the volume, The Wall and the Garden, derives from the frequent use by colonial preachers of the metaphors of the garden and the wall to describe the colonies and their spiritual enemies.
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